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The Roots of Judaism and Christianity i Judaism The Jews are a people who trace their descent from the biblical Israelites and who are united by the religion called Judaism They are not a race Jewish identity is a mixture of ethnic national and religious elements An individual may become part of the Jewish people by conversion to Judaism but a born Jew who rejects Judaism or adopts another religion does not entirely lose his Jewish identity In biblical times the Jews were divided into 12 tribes Reuben Simeon Levi Judah Issachar Zebulun Benjamin Dan Naphtali Gad Asher Ephraim and Manasseh The word Jew is derived from the kingdom of Judah which included the tribes of Benjamin and Judah The name Israel referred to the people as a whole and to the northern kingdom of 10 tribes Today it is used as a collective name for all Jewry and since 1948 for the Jewish state Citizens of the state of Israel are called Israelis not all of them are Jews In the Bible Hebrew is used by foreign peoples as a name for the Israelites today it is applied only to the hebrew language The origin of the Jews is recounted in the Hebrew Bible Despite legendary and miraculous elements in its early narratives most scholars believe that the biblical account is based on historic realities According to the Book of Genesis God ordered the patriarch Abraham to leave his home in Mesopotamia and travel to a new land which he promised to Abrahams descendants as a perpetual inheritance Although the historicity of Abraham his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob is uncertain the Israelite tribes certainly came to Canaan from Mesopotamia Later they or some of them settled in Egypt where they were reduced to slavery they finally fled to freedom under the leadership of an extraordinary man named Moses probably about 1200 BC After a period of desert wandering
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